The Madras High Court on Friday rejected a plea from Air Corporation Employees Union to control the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation from disinvesting its 100 percent shares in Air India Limited to Tata Group without carrying appropriate measures to protect the terms and conditions of service and the rights of the workers.
Tata Group had taken over the ownership of Air India on January 27.
The petition sought to forbear the Centre from proceeding further with the process of disinvestment of its stakes in Air India Ltd without taking appropriate measures to protect the terms and conditions of service and the rights of the employees of Air India contained in the report dated February 10, 2020, of the bilateral committee, constituted under a notification disseminated by the Director (Personnel) Air India, post disinvestment in consultation with the petitioner union and without addressing the issues raised in the representation dated August 9, 2021, to the Director and settling all the pending dues of the members of the petitioner union.
In his 133 page decision, the judge stated that more than Rs one lakh crore has been invested into Air India Limited, the sinking company.
Hence, the government was duty-bound to salvage the irretrievable situation.As a matter of fact, by disinvestment, the company would continue to stay afloat and the taxpayer’s funds is saved from being injected into the sinking company.
It is a rather a win-win situation for both the central government, as well as Air India, and in that view of the matter, the petitioner union cannot be permitted to recreate up the non-compliance with Section 9A of the Industrial Disputes Act to upset or scuttle the change and the mutation, the judge told.
In help of his findings, the judge directed to the ruling of the Supreme Court which had held that the process of disinvestment was a policy decision involving complex economic factors and the courts had consistently refrained from interfering with the economic decisions as it had been recognized that economic expediencies lacked adjudicative disposition.
Madras High Court
While it was expected of a responsible employer to take all aspects into consideration including the welfare of the labor before taking any policy judgment that by itself will not allow the employees to demand a right of hearing or consultation before the taking of the judgment.
No principle of natural justice demanded last notice and hearing to persons who were generally affected as a class by an economic policy decision of the government.
- The policy of disinvestment could not be faulted if as a result thereof the employees lost their rights or protection under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
In other words, the existence of rights of protection under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution cannot possibly have the effect of vetoing the government’s right to disinvest, the Apex Court had held.
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Air India to the Talace Private Limited
The judge also pointed out to signing a share buy arrangement(SPA) on October 25, 2021, between the Union government and Talace, as per which the handing over of the Air India to the Talace Private Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons ) was slated to be completed by December 2021.
All the areas of concern of the employees under 10 heads had been part of the consultative process, culminating in the suggestions and they had been taken forward and to the extent possible, they had been incorporated in the SPA.
Hence, it could not yet be told that the grievances of the workers were not taken into account for consideration before the arrival of the final policy decision.
“On the whole, this court finds that the writ petition is devoid of merits and substance,” the judge expressed and dismissed the same.
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